GIF Tutorial: How to Make Latkes

NYC chef and latke expert Bill Telepan shows us how to make potato pancakes like a pro.

  • Click through the gallery for a latke-making masterclass...
  • Put the vegetable oil in a pan and turn the burner on high. You want the oil to get to a smoking point before you put in the latkes.
  • Pre-peel the potatoes and grate them on the large holes of a box grater. (Idaho potatoes are key because of their starch content—they make crispier latkes.) Then grate your onions into the same bowl as the potatoes. Move as quickly as possible so you don't cry.
  • This is what inevitably happens whenever we try to grate onions.
  • Squeeze the water out of the grated potato and onion. Reserve the liquid in the bowl. Set the grated onion and potato aside.
  • There's a lot of starch in the liquid, which you'll use to bind the latkes. Let the liquid sit for approximately two minutes, during which time the starch will settle to the bottom of the bowl.
  • Pour off the watery liquid in the bowl, but save the layer of pale beige starch at the bottom. Discard the watery liquid.
  • Add two eggs to the starch, then beat the eggs into the starch using a fork.
  • Add the potato and onion back into the bowl with the egg.
  • Add a couple tablespoons of flour.
  • Season the potato mixture with salt to taste. Telepan says, "The thing I think is most important with latkes is seasoning. It's just like with French fries—have you ever had an unsalted French fry? They suck. You add some salt to them and suddenly it's like, Oh my god! That's the best thing in the world."
  • "I know people get freaked out about testing raw egg, but you have to test the potato mixture for seasoning," says Telepan. Add more salt if necessary.
  • Using your hands, toss the potato, onion, flour, and salt to combine. Note: You cannot make this ahead of time. You have to make the potato mixture, then fry the latkes immediately. Otherwise, the latkes will end up getting watery.
  • Scoop the potato mixture into a 1-ounce spoon. Shape the mixture with your hands. The shape doesn't have to be perfect—it's nice to have a little fringe on the ends because it gets extra crispy.
  • Slide the latkes into your hot oil-filled pan.
  • Let the latkes stick to the pan for a couple minutes. Resist the urge to move them around.
  • But you should, after a couple minutes, get them moving around the pan. Try to let the latkes cook on the first side as long as you can without letting them burn. This is to make sure the insides are fully cooked.
  • During the cooking process, turn the heat down a little bit if the latkes are browning too quickly. Alternatively, you may have to turn the heat up when the latkes go into the pan if the oil cools down too much. Use your judgement.
  • Flip the latkes over.
  • Let them settle first before you start moving them around the pan. After the first minute or two, shake the pan every once in a while so the latkes brown more evenly.
  • Press the latkes down gently with the back of your spatula.
  • When the latkes are a dark golden brown and cooked completely, remove them from the pan onto a plate lined with paper towels.
  • Season generously with kosher salt. Serve with apple sauce and sour cream.
  • And that's how you make latkes à la Bill Telepan.

Photos and GIFs by Liz Barclay (@liz_barclay)

Welcome back to the First We Feast GIF Tutorial series, where we ask restaurant cooks and pro bartenders to show us how step up our technique when cooking and making drinks at home.

Latkes, or fried potato pancakes, are traditionally cooked and eaten on Hanukkah. They are delicious served by themselves, with a side of sour cream and apple sauce, or topped with smoked salmon, crème fraîche, and caviar.

Bill Telepan, the head chef at Telepan on NYC’s Upper West Side, is a latke expert. His thick, crispy latkes won the People’s Choice Award at Brooklyn’s Latke Festival in 2011. “My wife’s Jewish, and so on Christmas we make latkes for breakfast, alongside eggs, bacon, and pancakes,” Telepan says. “We like to have the ‘Jewishness’ thing happening on Christmas. Then we order Chinese food for dinner.”

Telepan, who isn’t Jewish, was first introduced to latkes as a child, when his Hungarian mother made them for dinner. Of course, Mrs. Telepan didn’t call the potato pancakes “latkes,” but they were memorable nonetheless.

The beauty of latkes is that they’re inexpensive to make, and great for dinner, brunch (topped with an egg and smoked salmon), or as a snack. If you’re too lazy to make your own, Telepan will be serving its signature potato latkes from November 28th to December 5th.

Click through the gallery above to see Bill Telepan demonstrate the art of making perfect latkes.


with onion sour cream
Makes 6 latkes


For the latkes:

  • 1 1/2 lbs Idaho potatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying (canola oil is best)

For the onion sour cream:

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup minced Vidalia or other sweet onion
  • Salt
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 ½ tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Cooking instructions:

Latkes: Heat a generous amount of vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet or sauté pan set over high heat. Using the large hole of a box grater, grate the potatoes and onions into a mixing bowl. Squeeze the liquid out of the grated potato and onion into a bowl. Save the liquid.

Let the starchy liquid sit for two minutes. Pour off the water from the liquid and save the starch that will have settled to the bottom of the bowl. Beat the eggs, add them to the starch, and combine well. Add the grated potato and onion back into the egg mixture. Add the flour and salt and combine all ingredients.

Scoop the potato mixture into a 1 oz spoon, shape with your hand, then slide into the hot oil. Pan fry the latkes in the oil-filled sauté pan until golden brown and crisp on the outside. Serve with onion sour cream and apple sauce, or just about anything you’d like.

Onion sour cream: Melt the butter in a sauté pan set over low heat. Add onion, sprinkle with salt, cover, and slowly cook until tender but not browned, about 10 minutes. Let cool, then add the sour cream and lemon juice and stir to combine.


Bill Telepan: Latke King


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